HARARE - Hawks in President Robert Mugabe’s governing Zanu PF party have dismissed the launch of Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) movement.
The officials, who include party political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, said the launch of the party by Mugabe’s deputy of 10 years was a “damp squib”.
On the occasion of ZPF’s launch last week, Mujuru said Zimbabweans were hungry for change and promised to address unemployment as well as amend the current black economic empowerment laws, which critics say have spooked foreign investors.
In the 2018 elections, Zanu PF will seek to extend its 36-year rule and analysts say Mugabe’s derided party is still likely to win the election as the opposition is divided, and weak.
Ever since the nonagenarian controversially won the 2013 presidential election — with a 61 percent margin of the vote — economic fundamentals and social services have deteriorated further as Mugabe claimed a seventh term against Morgan Tsvangirai’s 34 percent amid allegations of ballot fraud.
But Mujuru says she was launching ZPF to end Zanu PF rule. “...we confirm our existence as a viable, inclusive home-grown political party. We are not fighting one man but a system... which is unjust,” the 60-year-old politician told an audience that included reporters, Western diplomats and four former Cabinet colleagues also fired by Mugabe.
Kasukuwere said they would defeat ZPF hands down in upcoming elections, before describing its launch as a “damp squib.”
In a nutshell, Zanu PF bigwigs believe Mujuru’s party was “grievance-driven” and, therefore, it would fail to offer any tangible solutions to the problems that Zimbabweans are facing.
On the other hand, Moyo tweeted: “In using Meikles Hotel to launch her Puffery First, Mujuru is copying the likes of Tsvangirai who used to camp there! It was her first outing on an alleged People First project at a five-star colonial hotel with a bar named Explorers.”
A politburo member who spoke on condition of anonymity said they welcomed Mujuru’s arrival onto the political arena and hoped that she has the necessary staying power.
“We will meet her where it matters most, in the hearts and minds of our people,” he said.
As it is, the International Crisis Group (ICG) doubts the new party would threaten Zanu PF’s power, but noted that she retains substantial backing within party and State structures.
“This appears insufficiently organised to present a viable alternative to Zanu PF, although anecdotal evidence of her organisational base generates ‘considerable anxiety’ within it,” it said in a February 29 paper.
“Inconclusive consultations about potential alliances with both opposition and Zanu PF elements have continued.
“This has compounded factional dynamics within the ruling party, and the ongoing purge of her alleged allies fuels speculation that some Zanu PF legislators are again considering joining her. Political exile can have serious consequences,” the ICG said.
“Few Zanu PF dissidents have contested by-elections as independents. People First’s formal registration as a political party may change the calculus, but as long as Mugabe is at the helm, a formal Zanu PF split appears unlikely.”
To many Zimbabweans, Mujuru — who along many in the interim management team that she said would run the party until leaders are elected at congress later this year — was destined to take over due to her immense contributions in the liberation struggle and other social responsibilities.